Eustachian Tube Problems - Altitude and Air Travel

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How do changes in altitude or air travel affect Eustachian tube problems?

A rapid change in altitude, and thus air pressure is equalized across the eardrum by a normally functioning Eustachian tube. A healthy tube opens frequently and widely enough to equalize these changes in air pressure. With altitude changes during the descent of an airplane, air pressure increases as the plane lowers. The air pressure change pushes the eardrum inward (retraction). Persons with Eustachian tube blockage can develop fullness of the ear, dulled hearing, and possibly pain when this occurs. Those with poorly functioning Eustachian tubes may experience similar symptoms when riding in elevators, driving through the mountains, or diving to the bottom of a swimming pool. Scuba divers learn tricks to equalize their ear pressures.

Return to Eustachian Tube Problems (Problems Clearing Your Ears)

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Comment from: PP, 19-24 Female (Patient) Published: April 12

The first time I went on a long-distance flight was in 1998. That was the first time I experienced air-pressure problems. I was told it was a normal occurrence and it would clear up once I landed. Now, 15 years later, I am still dealing with this. I went to an ENT specialist three times and he irrigated my ears (which I just read is the wrong way to go about it). It only worsened my situation. I am planning on going for a more thorough scan this week. I hope I am not too late.

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